Just Shelley

In France Now

I drove over to see my Dad in the hospital yesterday. When I entered the room he looked at me without recognition for a moment, before going “Michelle? What are you doing over here?”

Though the trip is four hours each way, that’s not outside of reason for visiting one’s father. I said, “I though I would drive over and see how you’re doing, Dad.”

“You can’t drive to France”, he answered.

My Dad can become disoriented in the hospital, or whenever he’s very stressed. When this happens he reverts back to two significant events in his life: the first was when he was in the 82nd Airborne during WWII, and he was in France; the second was when he worked for the CIA in Vietnam. Obviously it was going to be a French moment in the hospital during this trip.

He was still receiving units of whole blood when I was there, which surprised me so long after the operation. When I held his hand, I noticed how white it was, and how he had no strength in the grip. Later a nurse came with a shot of insulin as his blood sugar levels were off, and that seemed to help him focus. And he got his favorite meal yesterday – meatloaf and mashed potatoes and gravy. Especially the mashed potatoes and gravy. My Dad loves mashed potatoes and gravy.

Two young ladies from Dad’s assisted living home came out that afternoon to say hi and bring a get well card signed by Dad’s dinner table companions. Dad didn’t recognize them at first, but they were pretty young things and it brought out the Irish charm and blue-eyed twinkle. When he said things that confused them, I quietly mentioned that Dad becomes disoriented in hospitals, but not to worry overmuch.

While they were there, the hospital dietician came up to see what Dad liked for his meals. He mentioned mashed potatoes and gravy. I mentioned applesauce, and Dad’s eyes lit up – he also loves applesauce. And oatmeal and orange juice, and the dietician mentioned he would have a nice breakfast the next morning to look forward to.

I had lunch with my brother as we talked about the decisions that need to be made. The options are that Dad could go into a nursing home for the next month or so to begin recuperation, or return to his apartment, but we’d have to hire special help. Medicare would cover the one but not the other. Dad’s savings are rapidly disappearing but even with the special care he’ll need, he has enough for at least a year and we decided we’d give him a good year. At his apartment, he’ll recover more quickly surrounded by the familiar. And he’ll be happier.

Back at the hospital, I noticed with approval that they had put surgery socks on Dad, and that he was receiving type A blood, donated by a voluteer – thank you whoever you are. Dad’s chart was marked with the letters of “DNR” or Do Not Resuscitate, which means if his heart failed or he stopped breathing the hospital was not to use extraordinary means to revive him. This is a long standing item we have had on request, and the hospital knows this, as does the paramedics who have been out to my brother’s house, and even know where the secret key is stashed so they could let themselves in.

Dad is the one who said to me a few years back that he’d lived too long, and you can see it in his body, as he slowly dies by inches. But he just won’t let go of that spark of life.

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